Culture

Wonders of Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania

17 to 28 June
Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania

Travel through the Balkans by train with us and along the way visit the culturally rich cities of Belgrade, Sofia and Bucharest and other smaller towns on route. Each city or town has its own story to tell and is overflowing with history and charm at every turn. We close the tour with a visit to the forever famous Bram Castle, better known as Count Dracula’s home.

There is also a shorter trip option of just Bulgaria and Romania joining on 19 June.

Highlights

  • Travel on the Alpine railway of the Balkans
  • Historic Brașov and Sighișoara
  • Fabulous Peleș Castle
  • World famous Rila Monastery
  • See the oldest inhabited city in Europe
  • Visit to the famous Bram Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle
Itinerary – Includes all breakfasts and dinners

Day 1 – Sunday 17 June (D) UK flight departures from Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton.  On arrival transfer to your hotel, dinner and overnight.

Day 2 – Monday 18 June (B,D) Morning panorama tour of Belgrade, the capital city of Serbia located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, whose name in translation means “White City”. We visit New Belgrade, the Palace of Serbia, the Arena, New Ada Bridge, the confluence, St. Sava Cathedral Church, the New and the Old Parliament Buildings and Republic Square.

We depart from Belgrade by road to Novi Sad for a visit to the Petrovaradin fortress – an exceptional work of 18th-century fortification engineering and one of the largest, most complex and best preserved artillery bastions in this part of Europe. It spreads over the northern slopes of Fruška Gora, on the right bank of the Danube and its impressive location has given it the nickname of “the Gibraltar of the Danube”. We have a walking tour of the centre of Novi Sad, the second city of Serbia, known as “the Serbian Athens”. It was once the border area during the great Austro-Ottoman war. Sights include the National Theatre, the main city square, the City Hall, Catholic Church, Gathering Church and Bishop’s Court, all in easy walking distance. Return to Belgrade by train in the late afternoon.

Day 3 – Tuesday 19 June (B,D)  Early morning departure by train to Niš, the third city of Serbia after Belgrade and Novi Sad. It is also one of the oldest cities in the Balkans and Europe, and has from ancient times been considered a gateway between the East and the West. Niš was the birthplace of Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor and the founder of Constantinople. Visit to the centre of the city with some free time for lunch before departing by Bulgarian coach to Sofia. For those joining the trip today there are direct UK flights to Sofia from Gatwick, Manchester, Heathrow and Luton.

Upon arrival in Sofia – panorama tour of the city with the coach, check in at the hotel and free evening to rest. Dinner at the hotel.

Day 4 Wednesday 20 June (B,D) Morning city tour of Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria which Emperor Constantine the Great once called “My Rome”.  The city covers ancient Serdica, founded 4,000 years ago by the Thracians, while its numerous monuments and buildings reveal Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Russian influence. We visit the Alexander Nevski Memorial Cathedral, the 6th century basilica of St. Sofia, the Parliament Square, the Old City garden and the former Royal Palace, National Theatre, Presidency, St. George rotunda (4th Century, the oldest building preserved in Sofia), the ruins of Ancient Serdica and the Arena di Serdica.

Afternoon departure to Koprivshtitsa by train. The railway runs parallel to the Balkan mountains and the journey takes 1.5 – 2 hours.  Koprivshtitsa is one of the most famous museum-towns in Bulgaria, declared a national historical and architectural reserve, and here one can still feel the spirit of the Bulgarian National revival. Narrow cobbled streets, arch-like bridges, stone fountains and high-stone walls with big gates leading to picturesque houses create an inimitable romantic atmosphere.

Return to Sofia by coach, dinner and overnight at the hotel. Option to remain and have free time in Sofia.

Day 5 Thursday 21 June (B,D)  Transfer to the central railway station of Sofia and departure south by train towards  Dupnitsa and Blagoevgrad. Our coach will pick us up to visit the Rila Monastery UNESCO site, located a short drive away. This is the largest monastery in Bulgaria, located at an altitude of 1147 metres above sea level in the Rila Mountain National Park.  Admire wooden balconies, azure fretwork, collonades, facades and colourful frescoes, silhouetted against a fantastic panorama of mountain peaks. The Monastery was founded in the 10th century, has been a National Historical Reserve since 1976 and part of the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1983.

Now we proceed to the museum town of Bansko, located in the foothills of the Pirin Mountain National Park and another UNESCO site. Nowadays it is an international centre for winter and summer tourism. The eco paths and trails near the town, the numerous lakes and the old pine woods make it a popular site for recreation. In winter Bansko is the host of many world cup alpine ski races, while in summer time international jazz, opera and theatre festivals are organised. We will have a walking tour of Old Bansko to see St. Trinity Church and the complex of National Revival houses with their typical architecture – thick stone walls, narrow and dark loop-holes, iron wires on the windows and heavy doors. Check in at the hotel for dinner and overnight stay.

Day 6 Friday 22 June (B,D) We depart by narrow-gauge passenger train from Dobrinishte and travel through Bansko to Septemvri. This is the only operating narrow-gauge (760 mm) line in Bulgaria nowadays, built in the period 1921-1945. The journey takes almost five hours through the valleys and gorges. The line leaves Bansko, passing Razlog, Yakoruda and Velingrad, and links the western part of the Upper Thracian Plain with the Western Rhodopes, Rila and Pirin mountains. Due to the mountainous route the railway is also known as the Alpine railway in the Balkans. Avramovo station, situated at 1267 metres above the sea, is the highest station in the Balkans and along the route there are 35 tunnels, 11 stations and 10 stops.

Arrival at Septemvri railway station is in the afternoon and we transfer to Plovdiv for a panorama of the city. Check in at the hotel, dinner and overnight.  Overnight in Plovdiv.

Day 7 Saturday 23 June (B,D) A day dedicated to Plovdiv and its region. Plovdiv is considered the oldest continually inhabited city in Europe and the sixth oldest in the world. The Eternal City, as Rome is often called, is much younger than Plovdiv which is a contemporary of Troy which it resembles in having many different levels of occupation.

We will visit the Old Plovdiv architectural reserve – awarded a golden medal for architecture by UNESCO – the National Revival Houses complex, the ancient Amphitheatre, the Roman Forum and Stadium and finally the St. Constantine and Helena Church.

In the afternoon, we will leave the city to visit the Todoroff Boutique Wine cellar in the nearby village of Brestovitsa. Today, Bulgaria grows over 3000 wine varieties and is a renowned exporter to more than 70 countries, ranking among the 15 leading wine producing countries in the world.

Return to Plovdiv, free time to enjoy the central part of the city and a second night at the same hotel.

Day 8 Sunday 24 June (B,D) Morning departure by train going east to Gorna Oryahovitsa railway station and start to make our way to the nearby city of Veliko Tarnovo, the medieval capital city of Bulgaria, picturesquely located on four hills above the Yantra river. Our train will cross the Upper Thracian Plain, part of which is known as the Valley of Roses (once 75% of the worlds Rose Attar was produced here), as well as the highest and most picturesque part of the central Balkan Range.

Transfer from Gorna Oryahovitsa to Arbanassi Museum Village, located on a hill above Veliko Tarnovo, where we will have some free time for lunch. The village is mentioned for the first time in documents from 1538 and was so scenic that Greek bishops from Mount Athos and from as far as Jerusalem came to spend the summer there.

In the afternoon we check in at the hotel and enjoy some free time to rest. There will be an evening walk along Samovodska Charshia, where there is a variety of craftsmen’s workshops. Expect to see a potter, armourer, coppersmith, carver, confectioner, weaver, icon-painter’s studio, photographer, café, a workshop where kadaif is made (kadaif is a classic Middle Eastern pastry), and a bakery. The centre recreates the atmosphere of the first decades of the 20th century.

Day 9 Monday 25 June (B,D) Morning tour of Tsarevets Royal Hill with the fortress, Baldwin tower (Baldwin was the leader of the 4th Crusade) and the Patriarch`s complex.

Transfer to Gorna Oryahovitsa railway station where we take the train to Bucharest, departing at 12:03 and arriving Bucharest at 17:25.

Upon arrival, we will have a panorama tour of the capital city of Romania, including the most interesting sites in Bucharest, especially the Palace of Parliament (also known as The People’s House) and the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon). We will also see Revolution Square, Opera Square, Victoria Avenue and the Triumphal Arch. Transfer to the hotel, dinner and overnight.

Day 10  Tuesday 26 June (B,D)  Transfer to the railway station for a train to Sinaia, sometimes called “the Pearl of the Carpathians’’. Visit the summer residence of the first royal couple, King Carol I and Queen Elisabeth. Peleș castle is one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe.

Continue by coach to Bran to visit the famous medieval castle built as a fortress and famously known as “Dracula’s” Castle. Surrounded by an aura of mystery and legend and perched high atop a 200 foot-high rock, Bran Castle was built on the site of a Teutonic Knights stronghold dating from 1212.

We continue to Brașov, formerly known as Kronstadt. Fringed by the peaks of the Southern Carpathian Mountains and resplendent with gothic, baroque and renaissance architecture, as well as a wealth of historical attractions, Brașov is one of the most visited places in Romania and exudes a distinct medieval ambiance which has led to it being used as backdrop in many recent period films. In this city we are surrounded medieval stories including legends of the vampires. We enjoy a walking tour through the old town centre, including the Black Church (the largest gothic church between Vienna and Istanbul, which has a collection of more than 300 Ottoman rugs), the Council Square, the Hirche House and the baroque style buildings from Austro-Hungarian times. In the evening we have a traditional dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 11 Wednesday 27 June (B,D) Early morning train departure from Brașov to Sighișoara. From the railway station of Sighișoara we will take taxis to bring us to the old part of the city.

Sighișoara, the best preserved medieval citadel in Europe (yet another UNESCO World Heritage site), was founded by Transylvanian Saxons during the 12th century. Once known by the German name of Schassburg it still stands as one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. This perfectly intact 16th century gem with its nine towers, cobbled streets, burgher houses and ornate churches rivals the historic streets of Old Prague or Vienna for atmospheric magic. It is also the birthplace of Vlad Dracula, also known as Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), ruler of the province of Walachia from 1456 to 1462. It was he who inspired Bram Stoker’s fictional creation, Count Dracula and his house is just one of the many attractions here. Others include the Church on the Hill with its 500-year-old frescoes, the 13th century Venetian House and the Church of the Dominican Monastery, known for its Transylvanian renaissance carved altarpiece, baroque pulpit, Oriental carpets and 17th century organ. We have lunch at the house of Dracula in Sighișoara known as Casa Vlad Dracula. In the afternoon we take the train to Sinaia and transfer to our hotel. Dinner and overnight stay.

Day 12 Thursday 28 June (B) Departure by coach from Sinaia to Bucharest Airport.

We can also tailor your tour to include pre-tour nights in Belgrade and/or post-tour nights in Bucharest.

Place(s) available

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • Full 12 day holiday including flights from London: £1,899
  • Full 12 day holiday with own flight arrangements: £1,599
  • 10 day holiday Bulgaria and Romania trip including flights from London: £1,599
  • 10 day holiday Bulgaria and Romania trip with own flight arrangements: £1,399

Options

  • Single room supplement: Just £17 a night! So £153 for 9 nights, £187 for 11 nights

Deposit

  • £500 with flight option or £300 for all other options

Price Includes

  • Travel and activities as outlined in the itinerary
  • 4* hotel accommodation (except Brașov 3*)
  • All breakfasts and dinners
  • Services of our local tour manager (fully escorted from Belgrade)
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Flights
  • Direct flights from Heathrow, indirect flights from Birmingham and Manchester.